“The Museum will change the image that black designers are newfound talent. Most of today’s designers tell me they learned to sew from their grandmothers, and that’s who I want to talk to. I want the clothes their grandmothers made.”
— LOIS K. ALEXANDER-LANE
Lois faced a lot of pushback about the subject matter of her thesis from her instructors. Her thesis entitled “The Role of the Negro in Retailing in New York City 1863 to the Present” investigated the important role that Black Americans played in the role of the New York fashion industry and beyond. Her professor felt this was a futile effort because they saw Black retailers and designers had no pivotal impact on the industry. At that point, Lois made it her mission to prove this idea wrong.
The Harlem Institute of Fashion was founded in 1966 with the Black Fashion Museum following in 1979, located in neighboring brownstones located at 155 and 157 West 126th Street in Harlem NY.
Through The Harlem Institute of Fashion, Lois provided reading, math, sewing, and design classes for aspiring designers.
With a $20K grant from the National Endowment of Arts, Lois curated garments to build the Black Fashion Museum by going on multiple cross-country trips to preserve Black history, “It disturbed me so that no one recognized the contributions they made to the industry.”
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